The Disappearing Chinese Girls - where have all the flowers gone?

No, this isn't about China's one child policy and its scandalous but wholly predictable side-effect in respect of female babies. There's nothing new to say about that.
But nearer home, in Doha to be precise, rather older Chinese 'girls' have been disappearing for years, only to reappear briefly, prior to their final farewell. It's quite a tradition in fact, and equally unsurprising when the economics of the situation are understood. What happens is, they enter the country either on a visit visa or on an ostensibly legitimate but highly dubious business visa. Dubious because the job doesn't exist, and someone makes a great deal of money from the transaction. Then, when the time comes to leave or renew, the lady is off the radar - disappeared, in fact, to embark on a new career as an illegal immigrant. Of course, illegal in Qatar means unemployable; self employment is the only option, coupled with self-concealment, because discovery means arrest and deportment. The membership and ID scheme naturally denies them access to all bars and clubs, further increasing the difficulty of earning a living, unless they have already built a substantial client base or, the pinnacle of success, acquired the coveted status of girlfriend or fiancee with its attendant financial security.
For the less fortunate, inevitably there comes a time when they decide to go home. Of course there is no way to pass through the airport without a current visa and exit permit. Traditionally then, the girls would first send all their money home, by Western Union or similar, then turn themselves in at a police station, penniless, where they'd spend maybe a day and night in a cell, pending paperwork, before being repatriated with no right of return (unless with a different forged passport!)
But recently, the pattern has changed. The girls now seem to be detained in gaol for two or even three weeks before being sent home. There seems no point to this. They can't pay fines with no money in the country. They're not involved in any crime that could merit interrogation. So why detain them at the State's expense? Surely not as a punishment - that would be completely pointless. Also it would seem to be counterproductive. The old amnesty - turn yourself in and we'll send you home - makes it painless to leave. But faced with a few weeks in gaol, might it not be tempting to remain illegal until caught?
Another of life's mysteries.


  1. I was about to leave a comment at Spitalfields Life when I saw your avatar and followed it here. Quite the interesting blog you have here...happy to become your follower!

    As for the new practice of holding the girls for several weeks instead of a day before sending them home, could it be that local officials are taking advantage of their "charms" one last time? After all, they won't be coming back, or if they do, it won't be legally, so they can't report the incident(s).

  2. You are most welcome :) Spitalfields Life is a fantastic piece of work; I admire 'gentle author''s dedication and energy.
    As for the extended detention, in some countries I think your scenario would be the obvious explanation, but in Qatar I think it's not likely, where the police are also ex-pat workers in fear of repatriation for misdemeanour and where the segregation of sexes is strictly enforced in official institutions. More likely is some new bureaucratic 'procedure' that requires 17 signatures and 12 rubber stamps!


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